By Mizuho Kusanagi. Released in Japan as “Akatsuki no Yona” by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by JN Productions, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.
As we watch Yona and her bunch wandering through the nations doing good and saving people, it would be all too easy to cut back to the usurpers back at the palace and make them simple, cookie-cutter antagonists. But one reason that Yona of the Dawn is so strong is that Su-Won is not a cookie-cutter antagonist. In fact, the reader might occasionally be thinking to themselves, “You know, Su-Won being king may actually be a very good thing?” Yona is dealing with the world at the lowest level, going from small village to small village for the most part, while Su-Won takes on major threats to his kingdom and also tries to get the leaders of the various tribes to think better and learn more. It’s micro vs. macro, and neither choice is bad. And it also means that when Su-Won and Yona see each other towards the start of this volume, the tension involved is absolute dynamite – and it can only last a few seconds before being taken away.
If you do want a more typical evil antagonist, there’s always General Su-Jin, who cannot conceive of a situation where he loses to this upstart new king. But lose he does, as right from the very start we see horses dressed up as tigers (some nice historical research from Kusanagi-san there) and it just goes downhill from there. Su-Jin is the classic example of the obsessive who cannot let something go, and I felt sad that he did not have a moment where he threw up his hands and screamed “THIS CANNOT BEEEEE!”. The best part of his attack on Su-Won was actually when Yona confronted him, as her concern is not only t stop the violence but also to tell him how far Tae-Jun has come. Sadly, it’s all for nought, but it does lead to that beautiful shot of her and Su-Won seeing each other (there is some absolutely gorgeous art in general in this volume. I may not mention it all the time, but Yona of the Dawn is extremely pretty).
There’s also a bit of reverse harem here, but honestly, every single time that one of the other guys (usually Jaeha) shows that they’re in love with Yona, it’s there to underscore how obvious Yona/Hak is as the OTP. Here we see Yona getting a bit jealous when Hak uses his natural charm to get customers at a bazaar, and also tamping it down because she knows one day he’s going to leave her and go with someone else. That will never, ever happen, but hey, this is why you don’t hook up the main couple in the first book. Hak and Yona are perfect for each other. That said, the other guys all have their charms, and I am certainly content for things to simmer a bit as they are now. This is a bit of a transitional book, as we see that Tae-Jun, much as being a nurse is something he’s awesome at, having to return to the Fire Tribe to be temporary leader while his brother studies. As for Yona and friends, I’m sure we’ll be starting a new arc next time. I can’t wait.